How joyous I am, my heart and mind being rooted in the Buddha-ground of the universal Vow, and my thoughts and feelings flowing within the dharma-ocean, which is beyond comprehension! I am deeply aware of the Tathagata’s immense compassion, and I sincerely revere the benevolent care behind the masters’ teaching activity. My joy grows ever fuller, my gratitude and indebtedness ever more compelling. (CWS, p. 291)
It is quite likely that, when he wrote this exhilarating passage, Shinran Shonin was reaching the end of his efforts to produce The True Teaching, Practice, and Realisation of the Pure Land Way, which is his major work. The wonderful twentieth century Pure Land sage, Zuiken Saizo Inagaki said of this book:
[It] is the overflow of Shinran Shonin’s pure religious feeling. It is the book of Pure Faith. Through Faith he had a spiritual union with the Buddha of Infinite Light; and reposed in the [heart] of the Buddha of Eternal Life.
You can see how true this statement is by pondering the words from the concluding passages of the book that I quoted above.
Zuiken goes on:
Was there anyone who was as sincere and reflective as Shinran Shonin, concerning Karma, Samsara, and Emancipation? And was there any who discriminated and judged true faith and untrue faith as severely as our Master Shinran?
Having now been guided by the light of Shinran Shonin’s thought for most of my own life, I would answer to all of these questions: ‘No!’ There is no one who saw as deeply into the heart of religious truth as Shinran. As well as that, his own profound personal awareness and integrity are palpable. It explains why, to his followers, Shinran is do dearly loved.
But it always gives us pause to consider how Shinran saw himself in the scheme of things. In his own eyes he was a ‘fellow traveller of the way’ – along with all who accept the power of the Primal Vow of Amida Buddha, manifested in the Name, Namo Amida Butsu.
Shinran never considered that he could take personal credit for people joining him in the nembutsu way:
I do not have a single disciple. For if I brought people to say the nembutsu through my own efforts, then they might be my disciples. But it is preposterous to call persons who say the nembutsu “my disciples” when they say the nembutsu having received the working of Amida. (CWS, p. 664)
So, when Shinran expresses his deepening joy and appreciation of the Primal Vow of Amida Buddha towards the conclusion of The True Teaching, Practice, and Realisation of the Pure Land Way, he is speaking for all people of nembutsu. He is expressing a shared sense of growing appreciation and indebtedness for the working of the Primal Vow.
It is an appreciation inspired by nothing less than the working Amida Buddha’s Primal Vow.